Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference 1
The Pacers made an incredible run at the title but can they do the same next year?
At first glance casual NBA fans would say yes. They have an absolutely stifling defense centered around a young core, a coach that resonates with his players and a clear cut team personality that all of the players buy into. They even have former All-Star Danny Granger returning to the lineup for next year.
But others might disagree citing the Pacers 49 win season (that would put them tied in wins with Brooklyn and the sixth seed in the West), their 29th ranked bench scoring, and the fact that they caught the Knicks with an ailing Tyson Chandler and Miami with a clearly hampered Dwayne Wade.
First and foremost, you can bet that Indiana’s front office is focused on resigning David West more than anything else at this point. Luckily for them he has said he wants to return. In my opinion his departure would be disastrous for this team. He and Hibbert play wonderfully together and form the meanest front court in the league. His toughness also sets the tone for the entire team. Bring him back at all costs, even if that means spending a little more than you need to.
The return of Danny Granger is another story. In a perfect world, the Pacers could keep the continuity of their starting five and bring Granger off the bench. This would give that second unit the scoring punch it lacks as well as open up the option to play smaller lineups with Granger at the 4. Plus his 3-point shooting (career 38% with almost two makes per game) is something no one in their current lineup save Paul George can match, period.
But this isn’t a perfect world. This is a world where money matters. And Danny Granger might not be open to being the team’s sixth man considering:
- The 2013-2014 season is a contract year for him.
- He needs to prove he is fully recovered from his knee injury to even consider commanding the same money he is making right now (14 million).
- Coming off the bench in a perceived “lesser role” will not allow him to do that.
The fact is, in Danny Granger’s eyes, he NEEDS to start next year. Granted, I’ve obviously never met the guy and maybe he is willing to take a pay cut for the betterment of the team but….yeah. So they need to be open to two different options.
Option 1: Granger stays and starts.
The logical conclusion to making this happen would be to move Stephenson to the bench, slide George down to the two-spot and start Granger at three. Hill-George-Granger (assuming he returns to 80-90% of what he was)-West-Hibbert might be the best starting lineup in the league on paper. But what got the Pacers to the ECF this year? The fantastic continuity and chemistry of their starting lineup. Would Granger, despite being a crucial member of this team for years prior, ruin that mojo? Is that something Frank Vogel is willing to risk? Chemistry is the most important yet immeasurable facet of any successful team. Just look at the Finals of a couple years ago. No one would say the Mavericks had more talent than the Heat but the Mavericks won because they played together perfectly while the Heat (at the time) were a collection of disjoint All-Stars.
Another adverse effect this might have is stunting the growth of the incredibly emotional Lance Stephenson. Moving him to the bench could be seen as an unfair demotion after he made such huge strides this season. A begrudged Lance Stephenson is NOT something the Pacers need in the locker room. He’s already known to be annoying in practice and loves to get under people’s skin.
Option 2: Trade Granger
The Pacers have a few glaring holes and all of them pertain to their second unit. They do not have a trustworthy back up point guard2, they have no one off the bench that can stretch the floor or score in any way, and need a reliable big man to back up West and Hibbert3. If they traded Granger they could fill at least a couple of these needs.
Here’s a couple trades that could possibly work… (all of them minus the one with JR Smith are NBA Trade Machine approved)
Danny Granger for Luol Deng
The Bulls seem to be ready to cut ties with Deng since Jimmy Butler’s emergence. If they trade for Granger then they can decide not to resign him next year and open up some much, much needed cap space or roll with Rose, Noah, Granger, etc. For Indiana, Deng is at the point in his career wear a drop in minutes could help him. Thibodeau has been riding this guy at about 40-minutes per game for years and every time the playoffs come around Deng is too banged up to play to his potential. Maybe 28-minutes a night off the bench for Indiana could do both teams some good.
Sign and trade for J.R Smith???
I’m not exactly sure how sign and trades work but Smith is already used to coming off the bench and is a great 3-point shooter. I know he’s a bit of a hothead and didn’t play well (ok, he was god awful) these playoffs but trading for J.R. is just the type of risk reward move that could put the Pacers over the hump.
Granger for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler
The Clippers just might do this if Chris Paul their upper management gets a chance to make sure he’s healthy and back to his old ways. Granger helps the Clips to shake off their soft image as well as puts a vocal guy on a team who needs someone to grab Blake Griffin, shake him violently, and scream at him “Stop spending so much time making commercials and start developing the ridiculous amount of talent you were born with!!” It also gives the Clippers the opportunity to dump Caron Butler. Although this doesn’t help the shooting woes of the Clippers bench, it does give them another young piece who can handle the ball with George Hill on the bench and while also playing borderline elite defense.
Even though Eric Gordon hasn’t played a full season in four full years he embodies the type of player that the Pacers need. He can definitely stretch the floor (career 36% 3-point shooter who hits almost two per game) and open up the middle for West and Hibbert to do work. He played 42 games this year on a career low 30 minutes per game but maybe that’s just what he needs and exactly what the Pacers can give him. Hey Eric, “Your job is to come off the bench, play 23-25 minutes per game, get open outside and chuck”. Would he say no to this? Would New Orleans say no to the prospect of getting a full season out of a player making $13 million for once? Seems like a win-win to me.
Ideally if the Pacers move Granger they are going to need to get some bench scoring (preferably from an outside shooter) in return as well as possibly a reliable back up big guy or point guard to make the money work. If they can do that they will definitely be able to return next year as the Heat’s biggest rivals.
And I for one can’t wait.
- I’m gonna be honest, I only put this quote so I might sound smart.
- The playoffs showed that DJ Augustin’s inability to guard the pick and roll makes him such a defensive liability that the Pacers cannot succeed with him on the floor for any extended period of time.
- No, Tyler Hansbrough doesn’t count.